The youthful contribution to Liverpool's 4-0 friendly victory over Shamrock Rovers in midweek merely intensified Brendan Rodgers' commitment to promoting from within whenever possible.

From the first day of his tenure at Anfield, the Northern Irishman has sought to eke the maximum potential out of any player with the talent, hunger and personality to prove their skills at senior level.

Raheem Sterling was the first to be confidently thrust into the limelight at the outset of Rodgers' reign, rewarding his manager with a series of performances that belied his tender years.

The recently-concluded season moved that area of progress on further, as Jon Flanagan, Jordan Henderson and the aforementioned No.31 blossomed into mainstays of a Barclays Premier League title challenge.

On Wednesday, Rodgers took the opportunity to assess another batch of starlets, with Cameron Brannagan, Jordon Ibe, Rafael Paez and Brad Smith among those selected to play at the Aviva Stadium.

They impressed too; Ibe created two of the goals with his pace and trickery, and should have had at least one for himself, while substitute Jack Dunn joined the action and blasted home a fourth strike.

"I think it's clear that we're a football club that is about giving an opportunity to the youth players," the manager later reflected in Dublin.

"I'm not sure there's a younger squad of players that has qualified for the Champions League; I'm not sure there's a younger group that will have finished second.

"It's my first look - from within. Some of those boys have already sampled the first team. It's really up to them; age is no barrier for me. If they're good enough, they'll be old enough.

"Raheem Sterling displaced full internationals at 17 years of age and has gone on to become a really top-class young player. Jon Flanagan is young. [Philippe] Coutinho we brought in as a 20-year-old.

"Jordon Ibe has played in the first team. So there is an opportunity there for them, but they have got to have the personality - which is key."

Watch the video here »

Given the similarity of their attributes, comparisons are regularly drawn between Ibe and Sterling, and the former was asked by the manager to provide the usual flexibility of the latter against Shamrock.

The 18-year-old kicked off proceedings positioned in a wide berth, interlinking with Iago Aspas and Fabio Borini, before switching to a more central attacking role when the two sides returned for the second period.

Rodgers said: "He's such a talent. He's 18 years of age, he's still only a second-year scholar. It was interesting; I played him on the side in the first half, then we switched to a diamond in the second half.

"I wanted to see him, similar to what we have done with Raheem, to improve his football intelligence by playing him in a different position.

"He played at the top of the diamond and he was excellent with his running power, his pace and he's got a lovely touch on the ball. He just needs to work on his finishing.

"But the most important thing is that they get in the positions. For a kid of that age, with his composure, his touch and his speed, he's got all the attributes to be a really outstanding player.

"He has already come on, he played against Arsenal. We're a club that's really looking at our young players to come through, but they've got to have the personality."


Dunn's late conversion completed an incisive manoeuvre, as Connor Randall surged forward from the right flank and waited for the perfect moment to slip through his teammate.

The U21s goal-getter collected the pass gratefully and wasted little time in pummelling a finish into the near post for a moment he is unlikely to ever forget.

"It was a great finish," the manager analysed. "He timed his run really well. The one thing with Jack Dunn is that he gets goals.

"He made his first run and didn't get it; then young Connor Randall slipped him in with a great ball, he got in and took it on his right side.

"Normally the left-footed players are not so good on the right foot, but he kept it low and hard and it ended up as a really good finish.

"I thought the young players were really bright when they came on, the energy and intensity they gave to the game was excellent and some of their play was very good."